(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #139, 6/2/00
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Phillip S. Smith, Editor
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
the Week Online archives)
1. DEA Supersnitch Goes Down in Flames, DEA Supervisors Next? Or, Who Will Investigate the Investigators?
Andrew Chambers made a nice career for himself as an undercover informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Over a 16-year period, the drug agency paid him more than $2.2 million for his efforts, leaving him in either first or second place as the DEA's all-time highest paid informant. Chambers, a smooth-talking practitioner of the "reverse sting," was involved in some 300 cases with at least 445 defendants, some of whom are now serving life sentences as a result of their dealings with him (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/124.html#scandals2and3).
Now, however, Chambers has been "deactivated" (DEA lingo for "suspended") as a growing scandal swirls around him, his DEA supervisors and a number of U.S. Attorneys. The problem is that at least three federal courts consider Chambers to be an incorrigible liar.
Chambers' career began to unravel last fall when a California public defender, H. Dean Stewart, won a two-year lawsuit forcing the DEA to reveal not only its payments to Chambers, but also his history of arrests, which the agency hid from defense lawyers. But it was only after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chambers' hometown paper, ran an extensive investigative piece on January 16, that he was deactivated. And it was not Chambers' DEA supervisors who gave the order, but Attorney General Janet Reno, who acted after reading the story.
The Post-Dispatch reported that Chambers had perjured himself repeatedly in trials across the country. In order to bolster his credibility, Chambers consistently testified that he had no criminal record, but the newspaper found he had been arrested at least seven times on charges including soliciting a prostitute, impersonating a DEA agent, forging a loan document and larceny. Most of the charges were dropped (some by the intervention of his DEA handlers), but Chambers pled guilty to the solicitation charge in Denver in 1995.
As early as 1993, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California wrote that Chambers had perjured himself repeatedly. Again in 1995, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis agreed, condemning the government's tactics. And last June, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, DC found that Chambers' serial perjury for the DEA was "very compelling" evidence of serious government misconduct.
Now defense attorneys around the country are mulling appeals of cases involving Chambers, and U.S. Attorneys in Florida and elsewhere have dropped at least 14 cases where Chambers was set to testify, according to a May 28 Post-Dispatch follow-up.
That Chambers lied repeatedly to help his bosses send hundreds of people to prison is scandal enough, but that's only the half of it. According to the Post-Dispatch and the Tampa Tribune, Chambers' DEA supervisors are now engaged in covering-up their earlier cover-up of his criminal history and proclivity for perjury.
As many as two dozen St. Louis DEA agents are being investigated by the agency (!) to see whether they knew their witness was lying. Some agents clearly knew, since they had helped him squirm out from under arrests for soliciting, impersonating an agent and suspicion of forgery.
But the person in charge of the investigation, DEA Chief of Operations Richard Fiano, seems to have his own problems with the truth. Fiano told the newspaper that he was unaware of Chambers' perjury until last August, but DEA records show its chief counsel's office was aware of the problem last May. Also, the agency had just fought the two-year battle with public defender Stewart to keep the information secret.
And, the Post-Dispatch reported, DEA's February internal report on the cover-up was also full of lies:
Fiano, who is in charge of DEA's 4500 agents and approximately the same number of informants, also claimed that once alerted to problems with Chambers last August he immediately "put a hold" on using him. Not quite true. DEA records show that agents could continue to use Chambers with approval from the special agent in charge at one of the agency's 21 field offices. Chambers was not actually "deactivated" until February and, by the way, even that suspension is not total: the DEA says Chambers can continue to work on existing cases.
DEA remains the only agency investigating its use of Chambers. Its congressional overseers seem uninterested as well; during April's confirmation hearing for acting DEA administrator Donnie Marshall, the Senate Judiciary Committee couldn't find the energy to broach the subject.
2. Ecstasy Panic Looms: 1985 All Over Again?
In signs of an impending moral panic, in the last three weeks, media outlets across the U.S. and Canada have published a spate of Ecstasy (MDMA) scare stories, with a major Time magazine article hitting the newsstands this coming week. The stories, clustered in the San Francisco Bay area, Western Canada, the U.S. Midwest, Toronto and Florida, tend to follow a similar pattern: young person dies after ingesting Ecstasy (or often another drug sold as Ecstasy); drug fighters raise hue and cry; reporter describes exotic rave scenes; police issue ominous warnings of impending doom.
This flurry of interest bears a remarkable resemblance to previous drug panics, including the Ecstasy panic of 1985, when the drug emerged in Texas nightclubs and was being touted in press reports as the "yuppie drug." Headlines like "Madness, Not Ecstasy" and "The Agony of Ecstasy" (which has lamentably been reached for again by more than one uninspired headline writer) prodded the DEA to undertake an emergency reclassification of the drug to the prohibitive Schedule I, severely increasing criminal penalties for its use and distribution.
Now, fifteen years later, the Ecstasy menace again threatens the nation. Or does it? In the University of Michigan's annual surveys, high school seniors report a slight upward trend in experimental use, from 5.8% in 1997 to 8% in 1998. Still, the number using Ecstasy on a monthly basis is so low -- less than one percent -- that the drug doesn't even register on the federal drug use survey.
Still, based on a handful of reported deaths and an increase in the amount of the drug seized by Customs authorities, federal officials began hyping the threat. Last November, NIDA began a web site, http://www.clubdrugs.org, as part of its public relations campaign against Ecstasy, and Customs officials show up as sources for many of the stories. In a May 19 San Francisco Chronicle story on Ecstasy, Mike Fleming, Customs spokesman in Los Angeles, tells the reporter, "It's out there in great quantities. American teenagers have fallen in love with it... it's a serious drug with serious side effects. We call it 'lobotomy in a pill.'"
In Florida, the state's new drug czar (an alumnus of the National Office on Drug Control Policy) has been caught exaggerating the threat from Ecstasy and other "club drugs." After last summer's Operation Heat Rave, a statewide raid on the clubs, Florida state drug experts decided they needed proof of the deadly epidemic. They claimed to have found a total of 254 club drug deaths, but the Orlando Sentinel ripped those findings to shreds (previous WOL coverage at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/138.html#floridacount).
The Florida paper found that the drug fighters had included every death that tested positive for a list of some 20 drugs, some widely used in the rave scene, some occasionally used, and some not even linked to that scene. Even worse, the numbers included such hard-partying teens as the 58-year-old man who died after a heart bypass, an infant crib death, middle-aged methamphetamine users and terminal cancer patients.
Now, with more than half of the "club drug" deaths being rightfully attributed to other causes, the Florida drug czar's credibility is severely damaged, and even NIDA is concerned. "Questionable data on the nature of the problem will tend to put all data in question... There's a tendency not to believe any of that government drug data," a NIDA researcher told the Sentinel.
Observers less excitable than those Florida officials recognize that MDMA is a relatively safe drug with a low death rate, although its use does carry with it serious health concerns. In the short term, the greatest danger (and the cause of most Ecstasy-related deaths) is "overheating," caused by the drug's effects on the body's ability to regulate body temperature. According to Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (http://www.maps.org), overheating deaths represent a tiny minority of Ecstasy users, and the best available numbers back him up. The national medical emergency room survey, DAWN, reports a total of 27 deaths from 1994 through 1998. And, Doblin notes, simple harm reduction measures (drink lots of fluids, move to cool or air conditioned areas) can virtually eliminate that threat.
The primary long-term health concern with MDMA remains its impact on serotonin production and changes in brain structures. The research in this area is not conclusive, but some scientists warn of possible memory loss or premature aging as a result of repeated use. Again, Doblin demurs, pointing out that these possible effects are "clinically insignificant," meaning that no research done thus far has found statistically conclusive evidence of quantifiable behavioral change.
Some of the recent deaths that have fueled press attention are in fact not from Ecstasy but from substitutes sold to unsuspecting consumers as Ecstasy. Two Chicago area youths who thought they were taking Ecstasy died when the pills they ingested turned out to be PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine), a more dangerous substance. Still, this fact did not stop the Chicago area press from parroting alarmist information from local police and prosecutors. As area police went on the alert for Ecstasy, however, other area papers were forced to admit "Ecstasy Drug Not Yet an Epidemic in the Region," (Munster Times). One suburban Chicago policeman was quoted as saying "no arrests" had been made in his district; another worried, "I don't know how bad it is now. I want to focus on how bad it is."
It is worth noting that much of the risk associated with Ecstasy derives from adulterants or substitutes, as was the case in Chicago. DanceSafe (http://www.dancesafe.org), an Oakland-based Ecstasy harm reduction organization, has reported that 20% of the tablets tested at local raves were not Ecstasy, with that figure rising to 40% for samples sent to its offices from elsewhere in the country. In the forthcoming Time article, the writers describe an Oakland rave where nine people required hospitalization; DanceSafe confirmed that all but one had actually taken something other than Ecstasy.
None of this has prevented law enforcement and elected officials at all levels from pursuing efforts to heighten penalties for MDMA use and possession. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Bob Graham (D-FL) recently introduced the Ecstasy Antiproliferation Bill, which would dramatically decrease the amount of the drug sold needed to trigger serious trafficking charges. In Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports, a move is afoot to elevate Ecstasy sales from a Class 3 to a Class X felony, which imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of at least six years. Class 3 felony sentences, on the other hand, range from probation to a maximum of two years.
And the drug itself is not the only target. Officials in Chicago, Toronto and Vancouver, among other places, are using the Ecstasy scare to attack raves, the popular all-night dance parties around which a young counterculture is centered. In Chicago, the City Council quietly passed an ordinance to inhibit raves. After the death of a 20-year-old at a Toronto rave last October, authorities there are considering a variety of measures to restrict or ban the parties.
The combination of a vibrant youth counterculture -- the rave scene -- and a pleasure-enhancing drug such as Ecstasy is a fertile breeding ground for a full-blown moral panic. The forthcoming article in Time is reasonably balanced (although visit http://www.maps.org/research/mdma/time.html for some criticisms), but other media, law enforcement and elected officials have their own motivations for exaggerating or sensationalizing the issue. If the past is any indication, we may well be in for the Summer of Ecstasy, and such frenzies usually result in a new round of harsh criminal penalties for the substance in question. And why not? After all, Ecstasy is "no different from crack, heroin," according to an Orlando detective quoted on 60 Minutes II in April.
3. Grow Canada: Health Canada Medical Marijuana Contract Has Bidders Abuzz
In a matter of days, Health Canada, the Canadian government's medical agency, will close bidding on a five-year, $5 million contract to provide the raw material for clinical research trials on marijuana's efficacy and safety for medical purposes. The contract calls for the production of 100,000 joints and 100 kilograms in the first year, with those amounts doubling during the program's remaining four years. The successful bidder must grow, cultivate, dry, prepare and deliver the weed to the Canadian government.
Applicants are required to have a science degree and be bilingual in French and English. They (and their employees) also must have no drug-related criminal records since 1985 and must provide security measures for their crops, including cameras, infrared sensors, and barbed wire fencing. Bidders must be able to show they have the financial capability and the proper resources to complete the project. The government is interested only in growing greenhouse marijuana.
The looming June 14 deadline has caused a flurry of interest, with Health Canada reporting that it has sent out nearly 200 copies of the contract's 65-page information packet at $50 per copy. The potential bidders are a mixed bunch, ranging from pharmaceutical companies and universities to farmers and nursery operators and beyond, according to the Calgary Herald.
Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals, which already grows pot under license from the British government, appeared to have a good chance of winning the contract: Health Canada had already provided the drug-maker with more information and had visited its British facilities. But in a June 1 interview, David Hadorn, GW's Medical Director, North America, said that GW would not bid on the contract. Under the terms of the proposal, said Hadorn, Health Canada will retain all proprietary rights to compounds and strains, thus removing any financial incentive for the company.
Various Canadian universities and national and provincial government entities are also in the running. Saskatchewan Health, the British Columbia Forestries Ministry and the town of Masset, British Columbia are all considering bids. For the town of Masset, the tender call is an opportunity to diversify its economy, which now relies on dwindling logging and fishing industries. As Clinton Mutch, the town's economic development coordinator, told the Herald, the application's timing was convenient because the town was already planning to build a greenhouse for growing fresh vegetables. "Even if in five years we lose the contract to another bidder, we are still left with the greenhouse, which would be fully paid for."
The University of Guelph's Alfred College, near Ottawa, is also considering a bid and is touting its location (near RCMP Headquarters and Health Canada) and its expertise.
But given British Columbia's growing reputation for high-potency "BC Bud," the real expertise may lie outside the halls of academia. At least one bidder, David Dunphy of Green Wonder Gardening in Nova Scotia, acknowledges growing weed in British Columbia and says he can deliver marijuana as potent as "BC Gold." (Health Canada specifies a THC level of no more than 6%, but illegal Canadian growers have reported levels two to three times that.) Another bidder's name, Sinsemilla Acres, of Saskatchewan, also suggests prior experience.
For Marc Emery, the Vancouver-based publisher of Cannabis Culture and founder of the Marc Emery Seed Bank, Health Canada's call for bids has provided some amusement. "Everyone's crawling out of the woodwork for this," he noted. Emery is pleased that the Canadian government is "further legitimating marijuana because they're inviting everybody and anybody to participate" in the bidding process. But he decries the provision barring convicted growers from bidding. "That is totally awful," said Emery, "but at least the newspapers have had fun with it, saying 'Experienced Need Not Apply.'"
Brian Taylor, whose Cannabis Research Institute Inc. is preparing a bid, is generally pleased with the process and the excitement it is generating. "We're getting a lot of support now; people come up and say they want to work with us." His operation employs the latest hydroponic technologies, and he relishes the opportunity to put it to use growing marijuana. "I've been fighting the system to make it better. I enjoy doing this and it could be a nice few years," said Taylor. "I have a few more years until I retire and I look forward to doing it in the medical marijuana industry."
Despite the apparent legal roadblocks, even some imprisoned growers are looking at ways to make a bid. According to Hull, Ontario attorney Pierre Bourget, who is preparing a bid for a local hydroponics company, "guys in the Hull jail" want to arrange a bid, presumably through intermediaries.
Brad McNish, owner of Natural Farmworks Ltd., a hydroponics nursery in Alberta, has expertise of a different sort. A retired veteran of the Calgary Police, McNish has dozens of marijuana busts to his credit. "I was a police officer for 15 years and spent a lot of time prosecuting people for the hydroponic growing of marijuana. From that I learned a lot that can be applied to this project," he told the Calgary Sun. His former career notwithstanding, McNish is now willing to consider the possible medical benefits of marijuana. "It is prudent for us to determine if it has other applications apart from stimulating appetite and the desire to enter a 7-11 at midnight to buy a Slurpee and a Wigwag chocolate bar," he said.
Whether the contract goes to a smirking ex-cop, a university or one of British Columbia's guerrilla growers, the process indicates how differently Canada and its southern neighbor are dealing with medical marijuana issues.
In a recent article, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that only one clinical trial involving fewer than 70 volunteers is underway in the U.S. The Chronicle also quotes accredited researchers as complaining that "government reviewers have all but shut down clinical trials, basing their decisions on politics rather than science." Among others, the article quotes Ethan B. Russo, a neurologist at Western Montana Clinic, who has been denied access to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's supply, the only legal source in the nation. "The government is much more interested in preserving the purity of its ideology than it is in allowing patients to get effective medicine. I think it's a moralistic stance rather than a scientifically based one."
4. Two Drug Policy and Sentencing Reform Newsletters Come Out...
Two drug policy and sentencing reform organizations, the November Coalition and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) have recently published new issues of their respective magazines.
The FAMM-gram (Spring 2000) introduces a new, more eye-pleasing format for the quarterly update. This issue is a heart-rending special issue dedicated "to the thousands of mothers who struggle to parent from prison, and to their children who struggle to understand why mom is away." With a combination of reprints of important articles and pieces written by prisoners, the issue cuts through the drug war rhetoric to show the immense human tragedy of families separated by iron bars. And, in a very effective touch, FAMM-gram makes liberal use of prisoner and prisoner family photographs to put a human face on those ever-increasing prisoner statistics.
In addition to its special issue material, FAMM-gram continues with its regular coverage of specific beats: federal and state legislative watches, prison news and outreach and organizing materials.
FAMM-gram is free with a membership in FAMM, which costs $25 for individuals. Contact FAMM at: FAMM, 1612 K St. NW, Suite 1400, Washington, DC 20006, (202) 822-6700 or http://www.famm.org.
The Razor Wire is the bimonthly publication of the November Coalition. Like the current FAMM-gram, this issue of The Razor Wire also features women in prison. The cover photo of a group of women is surrounded by the caption "Over 227 Combined Years in Federal Prison," and on the inside are brief accounts of their stories. But the 28-page newsprint tabloid includes much more. The paper is filled with drug war news stories, both reprints and original pieces, as well as updates on state initiative campaigns across the country and prisoners' writings, including the continuing feature, "The Wall," which provides prisoner profiles. And, of course, the magazine continues to keep readers abreast of the November Coalition's actions, such as Mothers' Day vigils against the drug war in 13 U.S. cities.
The Razor Wire is free, although the November Coalition will gladly accept donations. They may be contacted at: November Coalition, 795 South Cedar, Colville, WA 99114, (509) 684-1550, [email protected] or http://www.november.org. of these publications on behalf of your local drug warrior! Let your representatives see the human face of the war on drugs.
5. ... While Another Newsletter Concludes Its Distinguished History
Newsbriefs, an in-depth drug policy publication of the National Drug Strategy Network (NDSN), published its millennium and final issue. Deciding that the Internet age has changed the nature and relative value of different kinds of publications and made news widely available online, NDSN and its parent, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation (CJPF), have decided to instead increase their focus on other important work -- providing information to the public and supporting research into issues such as mandatory minimum sentences, drug sentences, the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity, asset forfeiture, juvenile delinquency, prison construction and much more. CJPF is headed by DRCNet advisory board member Eric Sterling, former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee.
CJPF will also publish a quarterly newsletter, On Balance, sent for free to contributors. Send contributions to The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, 1225 Eye St., NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005, or call (202) 312-2015 or e-mail [email protected] for further information. CJPF requests that persons contributing news clippings continue to do so.
Last but not least, years worth of Newsbriefs are archived online and available at http://www.ndsn.org. This is a phenomenal resource on much of the past decade's drug policy history, and we encourage you to check it out.
6. Pressure Builds to Reform Rockefeller Drug Laws
According to the FAMM-gram, pressure for sentencing reform is building in New York state with three new bills in the legislature that would effective meaningful changes in the state's sentencing code for drug offenses.
A-4117, sponsored by Assemblymember Jeff Aubry (D-Queens) is the most comprehensive and would repeal the Rockefeller drug laws, restore sentencing discretion to judges in all drug cases and allow inmates currently incarcerated for drug offenses to petition the courts for review of their sentences.
A-10051, sponsored by Assemblymember Martin Luster (D-Ithaca) would reduce the range of sentences and allow judges to sentence selected drug offenders to drug treatment, community service and probation. The bill would also authorize the state to defer prosecution in certain cases and mandate drug-dependent offenders to participate in treatment. Lastly, the proposal allows defendants to appeal unduly harsh sentences and permits A-1 felons (those sentenced to a minimum of 15 years to life) to petition for review of their sentences.
S-2992, sponsored by Senator John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) would double the weight requirements for class A felonies, raising the threshold for mandatory 15 years to life sentence from sale of two ounces of a narcotic or possession of four ounces to four ounces and eight ounces respectively. It would also allow an appellate court to reduce the sentence for an A-1 felony possession to ten years, and grants complete discretion to judges in sentencing first-time offenders convicted of low-level drug offenses (B, C or D felonies).
New Yorkers please visit http://www.drcnet.org/states/newyork/ to tell your state legislators you think the Rockefeller drug laws should be repealed. To get more involved in New York state, contact NY FAMM at (518) 452-5455, the Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice at (212) 539-8441, or ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy at http://www.reconsider.org or e-mail [email protected].
7. U.S. Customs Urges Congress to Allow Searches of Out-of-Country Mail
(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
In an effort to curb drug trafficking through the mail, the United States Customs Service is asking Congress to pass legislation which would allow the agency to search all mail leaving the United States.
Last Friday, at a hearing titled "Drugs in the Mail: How Can It Be Stopped," held by the House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, the United States Postal Service testified in opposition to the proposal, citing Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. No bill has yet been introduced in the House.
"For over two centuries, the American public has had an expectation of privacy in their mail," said Kenneth Newman, the Postal Service's deputy chief inspector for criminal investigations. "[W]hen considering Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches, mail is in a special category... and is entitled to the same protection accorded a person's home. This requires probable cause and a federal search warrant to seize and open mail."
"The Postal Service is to be commended for standing up to the heavy hand of the Customs Service," said Keith Stroup, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "I would suggest they send Customs a copy of the Fourth Amendment, which they apparently have never read."
NORML asks citizens who oppose this obvious violation of the Fourth Amendment to contact members of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources. A list of subcommittee members is available online at http://www.house.gov/reform/cj/members.htm.
8. Massachusetts State Senate Approves Needle Exchange Bill
(courtesy Pioneer Valley Hepatitis C Action Project)
On Thursday (5/25), the Massachusetts Senate approved a bill allowing state health officials to implement needle exchange programs (NEPs). The bill must be approved by the House and signed by Gov. Paul Cellucci before it becomes law. Cellucci is said to support NEPs but believes that local communities, not the Public Health Commissioner, should implement them.
Previous legislation allows for local communities to implement NEPs, and they already exist in four communities: Boston, Cambridge, Provincetown, and Northampton. But some communities hardest hit by injection-related disease, including Springfield, New Bedford and Worcester, have rejected local initiatives to implement NEPs.
The new legislation is an attempt to circumvent the ability of opponents of NEPs to derail local initiatives by giving the Mass. Dept. of Public Health a free hand in implementing their own program in those areas. The proposal was approved on the last day of the Senate's debate of its annual budget. The outcome of the legislation is uncertain.
Last month, New York state took a different approach to liberalization of syringe availability by passing a law to allow pharmacies to sell syringes to injection drug users (see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/137.html#syringedecrim).
COLOMBIA: Stop the Andean military drug war package! Visit http://www.drcnet.org/stopthehelicopters/ and join the June 6 national call-in day to Congress. (Write down your Senators' numbers while using our site or call (202) 224-3121.)
METH BILL: It's even worse than we realized -- not only does this bill undermine freedom of speech, it would allow the government to secretly search people's homes too! Visit http://www.drcnet.org/freespeech/ to tell Congress to vote "no" on H.R. 2987.
HEA: Please visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com to keep building the campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act drug provision.
CALIFORNIA: Oppose "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License": http://www.drcnet.org/states/california/
WASHINGTON: Support "Reasonable People" Initiative Campaign: http://www.reasonablepeople.org -- and support Legislators Medical Marijuana Sign-on Letter: http://www.mpp.org/Washington/
NEW YORK: Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws: http://www.drcnet.org/states/newyork/
ALL OF THESE SITES HAVE TELL-A-FRIEND WEB FORMS THAT YOU CAN USE THEM TO BUILD SUPPORT FOR THESE REFORMS -- EVEN FOR THE STATES THAT YOU DON'T LIVE IN, IF YOU KNOW PEOPLE WHO DO.
Mike Farrell criticizes Judge
Judy and the TV judge phenomenon:
Jim Bovard on the drug war
in Colombia, Baltimore Sun
Arianna Huffington Just Says
"No More" to the Drug War
Santa Fe New Mexican series
June 2, 7:30pm, Houston, TX, Drug Policy Forum of Texas monthly meeting, featuring Lt. Cmdr. Sylvester Salcedo (USNR, ret.), founder of Veterans for More Effective Drug Strategies. At Christ the King Lutheran Church, 2353 Rice Blvd., off Greenbriar. Call (713) 784-3196 or visit http://www.vetsformeds.org for further information.
June 2, 7:30pm, Santa Ana, CA, Citizens Against Violent Crime (CAVC), potluck dinner and general meeting concerning the campaign to amend California's three-strikes law. At the Catholic Worker, 316 Cypress Ave., near downtown Santa Ana, one block east of Main Street and three blocks south of 1st Street.
June 2,3,8,10,15,16 and 17, Los Angeles, CA, "Shaved Head" comedy show by Chris Arcudi. General admission $10, $5 for SAG & AFTRA members or former prison inmates. For theater information and show times please call (323) 850-8956.
June 3, 8:00pm, Mt. Clemens, MI, Fundraiser for PRA 2000 initiative. At Performance Cafe, 173 North Gratiot, $5 cover charge, 21 with ID to enter. Presentations by PRA 2000 author Greg Schmid, Jam Rag editor Tom Ness and libertarian candidates Richard Friend and Marvin Marvin. Call (517) 239-9000 or visit http://www.ballot2000.net for further information.
June 9, 6:30pm, San Francisco, CA, The Terence Hallinan Award for Outstanding Leadership, Integrity and Courage, ceremony honoring the first recipient, San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, sponsored by the medical marijuana community. In the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel, atop Nob Hill, 950 Mason St., food and drink will be provided.
June 10, Sacramento, CA, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, Hawthorn Suites, 321 Bercut Dr. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register. Call (919) 441-1444 for hotel reservations.
June 10, 8:00pm, Colville, WA, "Benefit to End the Drug War," supporting the November Coalition and Seattle Hempfest. At Cafe al Mundo, 100 S. Main St., featuring reggae bands Planetary Refugees (Colville) and Civilized Animal (Spokane).
June 17, 6:30-9:30pm, Cambridge, MA, "Imprisoned Art," opening reception/benefit for prison reform activists, at the Zeitgeist Gallery, 312 Broadway (near Central Square), featuring Lawyer Johnson, wrongfully convicted, in Massachusetts prisons and on death row for 10 years, showing slides of his art work, including depictions of prison life. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Out of the Blue and Zeitgeist Galleries, art on display 6/7 - 7/5, call (617) 876-2182 for further information.
June 24-25, Sweetwater, TN, Fundraiser for the Tennessee Cannabis Action Network. For information, call (662) 578-0518 or visit http://www.webnow.com/nfnmusic/.
June 29-July 3, Anaheim, CA, Libertarian Party National Convention, at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel. For information or to register, call the Balcom Group at (202) 234-3880, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.lp.org.
July 10-16, Nashville, TV, "33rd Race Relations Institute" at Fisk University, one-week seminar devoted to discussing how racism affects the life cycle. For further information call Theeda Murphy, Information Specialist, (615) 329-8812, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.fiskrri.org.
August 10-13, San Francisco, CA, "Fourth Annual Hepatitis C Conference," sponsored by the HCV Global Foundation. For information or to register, visit http://www.hcvglobal.org or contact Krebs Convention Management Services, 657 Carolina Street, San Francisco, CA 94107-2725, (415) 920-7000, fax (415) 920-7001, [email protected].
September 9-13, St. Louis, MO, "2000 National Conference on Correctional Health Care," sponsored by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, at the Cervantes Convention Center. For information,contact NCCHC, (773) 880-1460 or visit http://www.ncchc.org.
September 13-15, Durham, NC, "North American Conference on Fathers Behind Bars and on the Streets," sponsored by the Family & Corrections Network and the National Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families, at the Regal University Hotel. For information, contact NPNFF, (202) 737-6680 or visit http://www.npnff.org.
September 16, Denver, CO, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
October 11-14, Hamburg, Germany, "Encouraging Health Promotion for Drug Users Within the Criminal Justice System," at the University of Hamburg. For further information and brochure, contact: The Conference Secretariat, c/o Hit Conference, +44 (0) 151 227 4423, fax +44 (0) 151 236 4829, [email protected].
October 21-25, Miami, FL, "Third National Harm Reduction Conference," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, at the Wyndham Hotel Miami Biscayne Bay. For information, call (212) 213-6376 ext. 31 or e-mail [email protected].
November 11, Charlotte, NC, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
January 13, St. Petersburg, FL, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
12. Hartford, Connecticut Job Opportunity
The Hispanic Health Council (HHC) has an immediate opening for a full-time Qualitative Researcher/Ethnographer. HHC is a community based health research, service and advocacy institute in Hartford, CT. HHC was co-founded by an anthropologist and a community health activist in 1978, and has grown into a major center of applied anthropological and public health research, direct community service, and training with a full-time staff of 70 people.
The open positions are for field qualitative researchers/ ethnographers on a National Institute of Drug Abuse-funded study of sterile syringe access among street drug users. The study is designed to compare the role of local-level social environment on syringe access and HIV in three northeast cities using an array of ethnographic and other innovative qualitative methods and epidemiological survey techniques. The present openings for this project are available in the Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA sites.
Qualifications for this applied research position include: a PhD or MA in anthropology, public health or a related field, at least 1 year of ethnographic field experience, good observational and note taking skills, willingness to work as a member of a field team, and readiness to work with the target population of this study. Spanish speaking ability is desirable but not mandatory. Familiarity with NUD*IST software for qualitative data management/analysis is a plus.
Salary: $37,000 - $39,500, plus an excellent benefits package. Send CV plus cover letter summarizing your relevant experience to: Merrill Singer, PhD, Hispanic Health Council, 175 Main St., Hartford, CT 06106, e-mail [email protected].
13. EDITORIAL: My First Controlled Substance
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
One thing my friends and colleagues would say about me, if you asked, is that I'm a stickler for "keeping it clean." It's not about the drugs, it's about justice and compassion and truth and making the world a better place for all people. I was never into drugs growing up, so why start now? Still, there's a first time for everything, and events that took place earlier today prove it. Today I purchased, and am considering using, my first controlled substance.
Don't get too excited yet. This morning I had a long-neglected wisdom tooth pulled out, and as a reward undergoing surgery, albeit minor, I received a prescription for Tylenol 3, which primarily consists of acetaminophen but also contains small quantities of the opiate drug codeine. My controlled substance prescription was offered, written and filled without controversy, no questions asked.
Ironically, I might not even wind up using it. The extraction went about as smoothly as it could have, and most of my discomfort is from the spots where they injected the novocaine (a derivative of cocaine). Don't ask me for any of my prescription, though; it's only been a few hours and I want to make sure I have it if it turns out I need it.
Actually, the real reason I can't give you any is that to do so would be a federal crime. I couldn't help but think this morning of Dr. Morrell, a physician from Michigan I met a few years ago at a Drug Policy Foundation conference. Dr. Morrell had spent five years in federal prison for what at the worst amounted to technical violations in the use of his DEA controlled substances license at a public health clinic in a low income neighborhood.
The substance that sent Dr. Morrell to the penitentiary was the same one I obtained so easily this morning, Tylenol 3. Under federal mandatory minimum statutes, prosecutors were able to charge him based not only on the quantity of codeine contained in the pills, but on the pills' total weight, consisting mostly of the acetaminophen found in ordinary, over-the-counter Tylenol. The judge was required by federal law to sentence him based on that enormously inflated quantity, hence the five year sentence. Dr. Morrell's colleague, if I remember correctly, was charged for an even larger number of pills, and got ten years and is probably still behind bars.
No wonder so many doctors and pharmacists are afraid to provide the much larger quantities of much more potent pain relievers needed by the true pain patients -- the patients with truly excruciating levels going on for years, the kind of pain that can make you unable to function or even prompt suicide. I couldn't help but think of my pain activist friends who went for months or even years before they found a doctor willing to take the chance, and they are the lucky ones.
I also couldn't help but wonder if a black man on the other side of Washington getting his tooth pulled would be offered the same prescription I was, as easily or with as much faith in his propriety. I don't know the answer to that last question with any certainty; it may be that it would vary from clinic to clinic, doctor to doctor or patient to patient.
What I do know is that the handful of white pills in my backpack should under no circumstances be a pretext for the government to ruin people's lives, whether their use, exchange or prescription has been properly authorized or not. I do know that the existence of laws empowering government officials to do so based on those white pills is extraordinarily dangerous and prone to corruption and abuse. And I know that as a result of such laws, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people -- people even the drug warriors didn't intend to target -- have been left without the relief, the lifeline, that these and other medications could and should provide them.
The rest of us can't quite claim to "feel their pain," certainly I can't based on one bad tooth. Even my friend's friend, who couldn't get pain meds for a broken nose because the doctor who set it believed he'd use them to "get high," maybe can't quite understand what severe, chronic pain means or what the drug war is doing to patients living with it.
But we can understand the problem, and we can be patient and supportive of those suffering severe pain and who need these medications; and we can work to get the DEA out of our doctor's offices and to end the police state of medicine plaguing this country.
(See http://www.drcnet.org/gateway/pain.html for an overview of the impact of the war on drugs on pain treatment.)
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